The OLG Frankfurt has overturned an irritating district court reasoning that SUV drivers have to pay more than other drivers for red light violations.
If you drive an SUV through a red traffic light, you have to pay a higher fine than drivers of smaller cars - at least that's what a Frankfurt district court decided on June 3, 2022 (file number: 974 OWi 533 Js-OWi 18474/22). The higher regional court in Frankfurt has now irrevocably dismissed this reasoning.
SUV allegedly with higher operational risk
In the case under discussion, a woman drove her SUV into the intersection 1.1 seconds after the traffic light had switched to red and was caught by the traffic surveillance camera. According to the verdict, there was a yellow phase of exactly three seconds before the red phase. According to the catalog of fines, the standard penalty for such an offense is 200 euros, two points and a one-month driving ban. ,
However, the judges increased the fine to 350 euros and justified the step above all with the driver's previous traffic offenses (exceeding the permitted maximum speed outside of towns by 23 km/h, cell phone use at the wheel and red light violation with an e-bike - all in the year 2020). However, they also assumed an "increased operational risk" when driving an SUV. The boxy design and the increased front end of the vehicle due to the greater ground clearance would increase the risk of injury to other road users in an SUV. There would therefore be an increased operating risk compared to a passenger car of conventional design.
However, with a decision dated September 29, 2022 (file number 3 Ss-OWi 1048/22), the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court decided that a red light violation with an SUV alone does not justify an increased fine. The Higher Regional Court emphasizes: "When assessing a fine, the rule provided for in the catalog of fines may only be deviated from if the individual case in question deviates significantly from the normal case. The blanket reference that the person concerned was driving an 'SUV' when violating a red light is not sufficient."
Higher risk of injury from SUVs not generally known
The judges at the Higher Regional Court further explain: "The 'greater' abstract risk or 'increased' risk of injury mentioned by the district court does not meet the requirements for such findings. There is a lack of the necessary individual case analysis, insofar as the Considerations of assessment were limited to a "vehicle type that cannot even be clearly determined" without a more detailed definition. In any case, "the essential risk-relevant characteristics" should have been explored. Since the group of "SUVs" is very heterogeneous, a conclusion from the group membership to risk-relevant circumstances does not appear possible.After all, the increased risk of injury assumed by the district court is not common knowledge, but the subject of investigations with diametrical results."
However, the amount of the fine remains unchanged for the complainant. Like the district court, the OLG also sees the numerous previous rule violations by SUVs driver, including a red light violation, the main reason for the increased fine and the one-month driving ban. The OLG has therefore rejected the SUV driver's complaint.
The decision of the OLG Frankfurt is not contestable.
The judgment of the Frankfurt district court that SUV drivers have to pay a higher fine for violating a red light because their vehicle poses an increased risk caused waves among lawyers and motorists in the summer of this year. Now the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court has irrevocably overturned this reasoning - the term SUV is far too vague and an increased risk of injury from such vehicles has not been proven.
However, nothing changes for the complainant: She still has to accept the increased fine and the one-month driving ban because she has already been noticed by several previous administrative offences. And in the summer of 2022, the district court also named the SUV driver's obvious unteachability as the main reason for the increased fine.
In this respect, the OLG Frankfurt provided legal clarity for SUV drivers on the one hand and left the individual fine for the driver for understandable reasons on the other.